Fort Bunuo stood high on a desolate land, its looming silhouette outlined every time lightning strikes down from the clouds.
It looked down upon the grim battlefield and the approaching curtain call of the gruesome war that took place in it. The human armies kept on retreating from all directions. Incapacitated soldiers could only wait for death amongst piles of corpses, the red-hot fireworks in the sky served as the final shine in their eyes before growing lifeless.
The sky and earth were arched, not a single place in the battlefield was not in ruins Broken weapons, armor, and tattered flags overlapped with the cold corpses of the guards and soldiers that died namelessly. It painted a wretched, apocalyptic scene.
Even the clouds turned scarlet, and the lightning was like a coiled thorn in its path, occasionally lighting up the world, presenting it in its truest and most horrific form to the eyes of the allied human forces.
From the vicinity of the village of Medao to the very edge of the forest, there were fleeing defenders everywhere, the scene of people in the gray background looked like a true portrait of a lost war, the last moment of despair. The female knight guarded behind a virgin wall, observing the situation outside through a gap in the battlements, the Devils’ onslaught seemingly launched from the horizon. Red fireballs trailed long-tail flames across the battlefield, searing the image of those ugly creatures in her eyes.
She pressed one hand to the black walls, which were covered with cracks and blood that spread from the watermarks. The bodies of the Royal Cavalry Academy’s students were neatly arranged in rows as if to maintain whatever was left of their decency, but it could not change the fact that all that was left were their lifeless bodies.
No one had ever experienced such a terrible war, and the men on the battlefield, whether they were the sons of farmers, the sons of craftsmen, or the descendants of nobles or knights and missionaries, they all came to an agreement of equality as they faced imminent death.
Freya even heard someone sobbing quietly. It was the civilians. Both women, and children, who were hiding in the basement beneath the castle. All the men who were capable had picked up their weapons and went for battle. But unfortunately, perseverance alone could not change the outcome, and everyone felt the sense of defeat in the chill air.
The building would tip over.
The female knight clenched her fists so tightly that her metal armor dented. She had only one name in mind, and she was sure that he would lead everyone out of the desperate situation just like how he fulfilled the promise he gave to the hopeless refugees, which was nothing short of a miracle when they were fleeing from Fortress Riedon.
Brendel was so confident then that everyone was convinced, including her.
“Could it not have lasted a little longer?”
“But…...the princess and everyone else is still ahead, aren’t they?”
From behind him came Bessie’s voice. The girl screamed with sadness and anger. The Royal Cavalry have paid a heavy price, and all who passed away here were familiar faces from the past, they could accept the sacrifice but not if it was in vain.
They would rather die in battle.
They did not want to experience this suffocating despair.
The princess was dead, and Aouine was on the brink of destruction. All of them felt the despair and helplessness in their hearts as if their hopes and dreams in life had just been established and was cruelly shattered immediately, right before their eyes.
It was a feeling of disillusionment.
The tears that ran down Bessie’s face were evidence, she almost shouted at Maynild, her commander, as if she wanted to tell the female knight to wake up. The princess was still ahead, how could she not realize it?
The female knight’s face turned pale and she looked away, looking as if she had been stabbed and was in pain. Beside her stood Marquis Balta, the commander of the White Lion Legion, he was covered in blood as if he had just returned from the depths of hell.
Across the battlefield, Fort Bunuo had formed a narrow protrusion. It was like a sharp blade, the two armies guarding the vicinity of the place were undoubtedly the most dazzling existence on the battlefield that day. The students of the Royal Cavalry Academy and the young men from Trentheim stood firm and honorable, the White Lion Legion held fast to its identity as soldiers.
Two of the most glorious armies in Aouine’s history were here today, fighting alongside each other.
“It’s not a gamble, Bessie.” Marquis Balta stiffened, “Nor are we gamblers, we’ve made the last attempt but we cannot use up all our chips at one go.”
“Are you using the princess as a bargaining chip?” The red-haired girl stared incredulously and hatefully at the Marquis. If it weren't for them, where would the kingdom be?
“Bessie, watch your words.” Maynild rebuked her.
“Senior Maynild, but the princess is still ahead.”
“Address me as a knight commander, soldier. That was the princess’ choice, but it was not her intention to have the kingdom buried with her, and that was her order.” Maynild replied coldly without a hint of emotion, “The final hour has passed, and I must meticulously carry out the princess’ order.”
Bessie shivered and lowered her head.
Maynild looked up at the female knight’s figure who was standing on the city’s wall. She remembered the future valkyrie of Aouine as gentle and even a little timid, in keeping with a maiden from the countryside. But today, she suddenly found herself not being able to fully understand the other party anymore.
“We have one more chance, Lord Knight, and if we counterattack in the village of Medao and cut off the Devils’ retreat route, then perhaps we can still stall for time, right?” Freya’s eyes glanced across the entire battlefield, and the famous battles of history came to her mind one by one.
It was only at this moment, that she was no longer that young and innocent girl from Bucce, but the Valkyrie of Aouine. Her thoughts were clearer than ever as she recalled her days in the Royal Cavalry Academy.
While everyone was taking a break, she was the only one who was painstakingly practicing her swordsmanship, in order to catch up with everyone else's progress. When everyone was asleep, she was the only one reading the famous tactical battles of history. She did all this because of the ideals Brendel had promised her.
The young girl was not smart, let alone a genius, but she had the strongest conviction in her heart. She would give up everything just for Bucce, for this land she loved so much.
Such a pure heart was not to be blasphemed.
She looked back at Maynild as if she wanted to get assurance from her senior. The protruding city of Fort Bunuo was surrounded by razor-sharp, treacherous terrain as if everything here could be destroyed at any moment, the same for the persistent Devils.
That was where their only opportunity lied.
At a moment when everyone thought the momentum was gone, the young girl stubbornly brought this up. Theoretically, it was possible, but the chances of success was less than slim. It was a clumsy approach and everyone understood that.
But Maynild knew.
Regardless of the success of this plan, it would at least convince Wood and the northern nobles to postpone their retreat. It was like the difference between having failed and still having a chance, which in itself was meaningless, but it would mean a lot of difference for the ones in crisis.
She and the Marquis looked at each other, that glance was enough to convey their intent to the other. It was a bold plan, rather than saying it was against the enemy, they might as well say that it was against their own people.
Both of them fell silent and looked at Freya with a serious look on their faces.
“Do you know what you are talking about, Freya?” Maynild asked calmly.
Maynild looked at her strangely, as if she was trying to find out what had given her such confidence and made her mature so quickly. War was often a gamble, and the more stubborn you were, the more you could hold on to victory, and now the girl’s potential was in full display.
"You understand what the consequences will be, what awaits this kingdom if the allied forces are wiped out here. Do you really understand the consequences of this?"
Marquis Balta also stared at Freya.
The young girl from Bucce was slightly startled as if she was out of her mind. But eventually, she nodded firmly.
Maynild sighed and she looked over at Bessie. The red-haired girl listened to the three of them somehow, but a smile finally appeared on the dark-haired female knight’s face, "I understand, the plan is approved by me, and I am solely responsible for the entire plan, whether it succeeds or fails."
Freya let out a soft ‘ah’ as she stared at the cold Maynild. The sense of maturity seemed to suddenly disintegrate and she was back to being the goofy young girl from the countryside of Bucce.
"Didn't you hear? Why don't you hurry up and get ready?" Maynild frowned and asked impatiently.
“B-b-but……” Freya asked incredulously as she thought she must have misheard her.
“Do you really want to be responsible for this?” Maynild could not help but find it funny, “Soldier, you don’t have that right yet. Who do you think you are? Will Archbishop Wood obey you?”
"But...Lord Marquis?" She could not help but look at Marquis Balta on the side.
The current head of the White Lion Legion did not answer, he just wiped his bloody forehead with his hand and shook his head. “Do you think you're the only one who's not happy, little girl?"
"Thank you for giving me the opportunity."
He stared at the sky, with his eyes reflecting the crimson flames, and he murmured a reply. At that moment Marquis Balta seemed to see that flag and he smiled slightly.
Aouine may need to do more than just ensuring their survival.
There was something more important.
Something worth guarding.
And there may come a time where the White Lions made their own mistakes…